Sunday, 31 May 2009

Taste Of Things To Come

Here are a few pictures that I took on Saturday to give those who haven't visited Bicton, an idea of its beauty. I am looking to cover the following areas in future posts.

  • Bicton Woodland Railway
  • Countryside Museum
  • St Mary's Church
  • Bicton House
  • The Hermitage
  • Gardens
  • Past attractions
  • History

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A Brief History Of Bicton

The Manor of Bicton was originally known as Buckinton. It was land granted to John Janitor by Henry I for his services at Exeter Castle. The estate passed through several families before being sold to Sir Robert Denys who enclosed a deer park and re-built the house. His daughter married Sir Henry Rolle and the property became inherited by the Rolle family.

During the period that the Rolle family owned Bicton, many of the features that we can see today were developed. In 1957 Bicton House, the lake and Home Farm were sold to Devon County Council for use as an agricultural and horticultural college and in 1961 the decision was made to restore the existing gardens to their former glory after neglect during the war years. It was two years later that the gardens first opened to the public. The woodland railway was created as both an attraction, now that a Manor House no longer provided a feature, and also an interesting way for visitors to view the gardens and get to the Hermitage summer house at the far end of the grounds. In 1986 Bicton was given to a charitable trust.

Today the 63 acre, Grade 1 listed gardens are owned and run by Simon and Valerie Lister who bought the Bicton in 1998. The main attractions are still preserved and the gardens look as great as ever.

Photograph: The Gardens in the early 1960's. ©Jarrold & Sons Ltd.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Budley not in Budleigh

In the last post I featured a picture of my sister and I sitting in the cab of an engine called 'Budley'. After a good Googling, I have found my old friend.

Budley was a Ruston & Hornsby locomotive type 13DL, purchased by the Ministry of Works in 1945 for use on 2ft guage track. In 1959 the Fairy Glen Miniature Railway re-gauged the engine to 18 inch and six years later it was sold to Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway. Bicton Woodland Railway then got it in 1974 and named the engine Budley after Budleigh in Devon. 

Budley is just a shell without gearbox or engine. Its new owners, The Royal Gunpowder Mills are going to re-build budley to a working engine. They purchased Bicton's other locomotives along with old Budley in 2000. More on this another time.

Picture below © 'Jampics'

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Welcome to Bicton Park

Bicton Park Gardens is an area of outstanding beauty containing a collection of trees and plants as well as an 18-inch narrow gauge railway and other day-out attractions. It is situated on the A376 between Budleigh Salterton and Newton Poppleford, near Devon's great city of Exeter.

My grandad George Cook used to take me to Bicton when I was young. When I get out in the car park, even now,  I still recall eating my picnic with grandad on a day when we arrived at lunchtime, enjoying the cup cakes and Kit Kats that were reserved for special occasions such as this and being fascinated by the textured vinyl roof of grandad's car.

We would explore everything Bicton had to offer - walking round the gardens and trees, looking round the Countryside Museum and, most importantly having a ride on the narrow guage woodland railway.

Some things have come and gone, which I will go into in more detail later. The short lived Bicton Hall of Transport and vintage bus rides around the grounds are two of the things I miss the most. 

Me and my sister Sam sitting in 'Budley'. This engine was near the station and was placed off the rails on the tarmac for kids to play with. I could not get enough of it but it is sadly long gone.
The steam engine 'Woolwich' makes its way through the gardens.

My grandma Olive outside Bicton's gift shop. Taken by grandad on one of their visits. (edit. I don't think this is Bicton but I like it all the same)

Another of 'Woolwich' on a sunny day.

My grandad George.

(All pictures taken by George Cook except picture 2 unknown)

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Coming Soon

This blog will give an insight into the history of Bicton Park Gardens in Devon and I will also explain  my own fascination with this beautiful place. I will also share my collection of images. Please be patient and you will be rewarded.